Un­wa­ver­ing De­vayani

Economic Challenger - - CONTENTS - − Ur­mila Sharma


De­vayani is one of the won­der­ful characters in the Ma­hab­harata. She has full wis­dom to dis­crim­i­nate be­tween right and wrong. She has enough strength to fight against in­jus­tice. Even the re­jec­tion by Kacha, hu­mil­i­a­tion by Sarmishtha, can do noth­ing with the at­ti­tude of De­vayani. She is really a pow­er­ful and un­wa­ver­ing char­ac­ter in The Ma­hab­harata.

It is the aim of this pa­per to bring into lime­light the sta­tus of De­vayani with her spe­cial features, ac­cord­ing to a fem­i­nist point of view.


Hin­duism is the only ma­jor re­li­gion that wor­ships God also as in fem­i­nine form too. All other ma­jor faiths see God as a ’Fa­therly’ fig­ure only. Even in our great Epic Ma­hab­harata, which in­flu­ences not only In­dian men & women but also the en­tire hu­man­ity, we have so many great women characters, whose im­pact is be­yond the limit of time and space.

We have a few women characters in this ro­mance, who show ex­ces­sive fem­i­nine ut­ter­ances in their char­ac­ter and proves that woman is not a domestic com­mod­ity. And one of the most un­wa­ver­ing and in­vin­ci­ble women characters is De­vayani. De­vayani was the lovely daugh­ter of Sukracharya. She was out­stand­ing & co­gent in her at­ti­tude. Be­ing a daugh­ter of Sukracharya, she dared to ad­mit her love for Kacha (son of Bri­nas­pati).

For three times she saved his life from Asuras. She pos­sessed quick wit and a clever tongue. Her abil­ity to de­bate was demon­strated when Asura seized Kacha, tore him to pieces and threw his flesh to the dogs. It was her love that cried,

"The sun has set.......... Still Kacha has not re­turned home. I fear some mishap has be­fallen Kacha. I can’t live with­out him."

Again when he was killed sec­ond time, De­vayani felt no hes­i­ta­tion to ap­proach her fa­ther. When in their third at­tempt Asuras Killed Kacha and very clev­erly burnt his body, mixed the ashes in wine and served it to Sukracharya; who drank it. De­vayani again ap­proached her fa­ther with dis­tress­ful ap­peal with her true ded­i­ca­tion for Kacha, that can be per­ceived in her words :

"I loved him dearly, and now that he has been killed, life to me has be­come bleak & in­sup­port­able. I shall there­fore fol­low his path."

It was her wit to de­bate that saved Kacha ev­ery­time. Though, it was a one−sided af­fec­tion as there was a pur­pose be­hind Kacha’s visit. He was pre­tend­ing. He was seek­ing the se­cret of San­jivini that’s why he had promised Sukracharya to live as a brahm­chari for ten years. There is an old say­ing.

"Noth­ing is su­pe­rior to truth­ful­ness, nor any­thing more ter­ri­ble than false­hood."

And for De­vayani, this bit­ter truth that Kacha con­sid­ered her as a sis­ter as he had got back his life by be­ing born out of her fa­ther’s body, was ter­ri­ble to bear.

"O fault­less one, you are my master’s daugh­ter and ever wor­thy of my re­spect........ It is not proper for you, my sis­ter, to ask me to wed you."

But af­ter re­jec­tion by Kacha, she ap­peared as a wise learned Brah­min Lady, who had

enough strength to ar­gue with her ri­val. "...........It is not fit that you should give up one like me sin­less & de­voted to you."

In spite of be­ing a learned per­son­al­ity she proved a fail­ure in the hands of fate & chance. Even Kacha cursed her that no Brah­man would be her hus­band. Though her in­ner fem­i­nist also cursed Kacha that he would never be able to use his knowl­edge. But this curse propheties the next life story of De­vayani. And it was this ’curse’ that in­car­nated De­vayani into a fem­i­nist rather a vic­tim.

"In the Ma­hab­harata − the word DHARMA is in­voked for al­most ev­ery­thing. It was dharma to wage war & win. It was dharma to hon­our and cher­ish women but the same dharma is in­voked to con­sider her as a domestic chat­tel."

Kacha re­jected and con­sid­ered De­vayani as his sis­ter on the ground of Dharma. Even he cursed her ’Not to be mar­ried with a Bra­haman’, on the ground of same Dharma. But if we think ac­cord­ing to a fem­i­nist point of view where was the Dharma when Kacha was pre­tend­ing to be in love with De­vayani.

De­vayani also means ’main−god­dess’ or mas­ter­mind. She was beau­ti­ful, faith­ful, trust­wor­thy, and many other won­der­ful qual­i­ties were com­piled in her.

The episode be­tween De­vayani & Sarmistha proved her an in­vin­ci­ble woman with enough strength to fight against in­jus­tice.

Push­ing De­vayani into a dry well , Sarmishtha brought a bliss for her as she hap­pened to meet there Em­peror Yay­ati who was hunt­ing in the for­est. By a happy chance, she came to the very spot in search of water and he seized her hand and helped her out of the well.

She had a won­der­ful pres­ence of mind, that’s why quickly she pro­posed to him that he should marry her as he had held her right hand. But ac­cord­ing to the an­cient tra­di­tion, it was con­sid­ered wrong for a Brah­man maiden to marry a Ksha­triya. Again her in­ner fem­i­nist moved ahead against tra­di­tions. Here we can ap­ply Freud’s the­ory (in case of her sec­ond chance to have a man in her life)

In Freud’s opin­ion

"If ideas are re­pressed, but re­main in the mind, re­moved from con­scious­ness yet op­er­a­tive, and then reap­pear in con­scious­ness un­der cer­tain cir­cum­stances".

Most prob­a­bly the re­pressed feel­ings and pas­sions of de­vayani for Kacha, ac­ti­vated and then reap­peared in her con­scious­ness at the first sight of Yay­ati. That’s why she at once pro­posed Yay­ati.

De­vayani had wis­dom to dis­crim­i­nate be­tween right & wrong. She had enough strength to fight against in­jus­tice. That’s why when Sukracharya tried to con­sole her and asked her to come back af­ter her con­flict with Sarmishtha, she re­jected by say­ing that Sarmishtha had in­sulted her fa­ther, by say­ing a ’men­di­cant liv­ing on the doles won by falt­tery’.

She ar­gued with her quick wit and clever tongue,

"The wounds in­flicted by weapons may close in time; scolds may heal grad­u­ally but wounds in­flected by words re­main painful as long as one lives."

She was a bit stub­born and that’s why she made Sarmishtha as her at­ten­dant, only to sat­isfy her ego.

Here, her stub­born na­ture brought her the great­est ad­ver­sity of her life. No doubt, Yay­ati & De­vayani spent many days in hap­pi­ness & Sarmishtha re­mained with her as an at­ten­dant. But the ex­tra mar­i­tal af­fair or il­licit re­la­tion of Yay­ati with Sarmishtha was a great ad­ver­sity which was brought by her­self by keep­ing Sarmishtha as her at­ten­dant.

It may be Sarmishtha’s re­venge against De­vayani. As has been rightly said,

"A re­venge­ful woman is worse than any­thing else.’

Sarmishtha es­tab­lished il­licit re­la­tions with Yay­ati. Here De­vayani ap­peared not as a sub­mis­sive, but as a fear­less and un­com­pro­mis­ing woman who was so quick to seek re­venge. Again her in­ner fem­i­nist com­plained to her fa­ther Sukracharya and he

in his rage cursed Yay­ati with pre time old age.’ Her abil­ity to over­come ad­ver­sity in an in­vin­ci­ble man­ner kept her apart from other women in the Ma­hab­harata.

Hence she proved ’ A woman can’t be a vic­tim al­ways.’

De­vayani had ab­so­lute abil­ity to use her po­si­tion as well as her power of be­ing a woman.

"Fear­less­ness’, is the key­word in the char­ac­ter of De­vayani. Be­sides her sen­su­ous­ness, as for that she was cursed by Kacha, she had so many qual­i­ties that proved her ab­so­lute. As Dr. Vana­mala Bhawalkar states

"[In] Drau­padi’s Era, there was no ques­tion of women’s equal­ity with men. The wife was the coun­ter­part of her hus­band and both to­gether be­came a com­plete per­son. As Mil­ton has said "He for God and she For the God in him" was true in those days."(150).

But as we per­ceive De­vayani’s char­ac­ter, we find a strong woman who fights against ev­ery dis­crim­i­na­tion and in­jus­tice, even the in­jus­tice done by her hus­band. And for that one con­sid­ers De­vayani as more pro­found and won­der­ful char­ac­ter as com­pared with Drau­padi. In spite of be­ing hu­mil­i­ated in the court , she for­gives her hus­bands. No doubt she re­buked & threat­ened the Kau­ravas for mo­lest­ing her, even she took her re­venge that re­sulted in to the war of Ma­hab­harata. But ul­ti­mately she never thought to pun­ish her hus­bands. Def­i­nitely the Pan­davas were them­selves re­spon­si­ble for Drau­padi’s hu­mi­la­tion. ".................Though soft speak­ing she used harsh words to her hus­bands when nec­es­sary." Yet, she for­gave her hus­bands. But in case of De­vayani, she never for­gave her hus­band even she com­plained against him to Sukracharya that re­sulted into his pre−time old age. She has proved that woman is not only to serve her hus­band. She may be re­venge­ful against in­jus­tice done by her hus­band. She has as equal rights as a man has.

The feisty na­ture of Drau­padi, so­phis­ti­cated as­pects of Kunti & ag­gres­sive­ness of Amba com­bine in one form that is Un­wa­ver­ing De­vayani.


1. Bhawalkar, V.(2002) Em­i­nent Women in the Ma­hab­harta, Delhi: Sharda Pub­lish­ing House 2. Raja Gopalachari, C.(2007) Ma­hab­harta,

Mum­bai, Bhar­tiya Vidya Bha­van. 3. Moti­lal, Bi­mal Kr­ishna (1989) Mo­ral Dilem­mas in the Ma­hab­harta, In­dia: Sh. Jainen­dra Press


en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De­vayani (14−july−2012)




Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.